Where Are They Now?:
Kate Merrill: From Carlisle classroom to WBZ newsroom
|Carlisle Huskies basketball in 1988, featured Kate Merrill (center) flanked by Kelly Colburn, left,and Kristen Raftery (daughter of long-time Mosquito cartoonist Tom Raftery), right. (Courtesy photo)
Did you see the WBZ-TV news promotions which ran this winter, highlighting two-time Emmy Award-winning morning news anchor, Kate Merrill, as a graduate of Concord-Carlisle High School? And another spot filmed with her former schoolmate’s mom, Doris Kearns Goodwin, revealing Kate Merrill as a Carlisle native! That was a happy surprise to me since she is so bright and sunny and is my favorite news anchor. I spoke to Kate last week and I can attest she is just as lovely and positive in person.
Maybe some of you knew her and her family when they lived in town as Kate was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, or you might remember her working her first job scooping ice cream at Kimball’s. Kate told me “I grew up in Carlisle, went through elementary school there, and my family lived there through the time I spent in college – my whole childhood! My parents left around 2000 as my dad’s company moved to Florida, but my family loved Carlisle. I was married at Saint Irene Church, my dad is buried at the Green Cemetery, and my mom would gladly be living in Carlisle today.”
Growing up a news junkie
I asked Kate to tell me what she does in her role as a WBZ-TV news anchor and news journalist. I am always curious how much the news journalists are involved in developing the content of the news stories they report. Kate told me she is very involved. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years now, and I am a reporter at heart. I have been a reporter since I started at age 22. We have a great overnight shift news team here at the station and when I come in each morning, I read every script, we meet and I give my opinions, and I get involved in every story. It is a great team effort and we all have a say. I grew up a news junkie, my mom was a news junkie, our household was always watching WBZ-TV, and so I am very interested in it all.”
A little luck and a lot of heart…
| WBZ anchor Kate Merrill (right) returned to Carlisle last November to do a story about Debbie Bentley (left) and the Poppy Project. (Photo by Marjorie Johnson)
I asked Kate how she got launched in the news business at such a young age. Modestly she cited that she got lucky. Growing up in Carlisle, she went to CCHS, then to Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and started out in their pre-med program to become a doctor, then changed to business, and then thought about becoming a lawyer. Those were all careers she was familiar with from the people that she knew. “I had gone to CCHS and became friends with Doris Kearns Goodwin’s son, and one day Doris asked me what I really wanted to do. I told her I’d love to be a journalist but it was too hard and competitive. I had no experience with anyone working in the news industry, and it seemed as remote to me as Hollywood. At the time, Doris was involved at WCVB-TV as a special guest analyst, she helped introduced me there and I became a summer intern, working with Susan Wornick. That was a great experience and very pivotal for me. Susan really inspired me because she was such a strong and independent woman. It helped pave the way to my getting an internship later at a television station in Allentown, Pennsylvania, when I returned to college. Before I graduated I made a tape there showing my reporting which I used in my job search process, and it helped me get a job soon after graduation at a station in upstate New York.”
… and plenty of willingness to experiment and work hard
“From my own experience, I feel it is so important that people find help and support from others who can help aim them in the direction of their interests. What I tell my own daughters and others who are setting their course, ‘Figure out what you like. Find a way to make that into a job. Find a way to make a living doing what you really want to do. Don’t do something just to make money because you will be miserable.’
“My mom encouraged me to become an accountant; she said ‘there are always jobs for accountants, your aunt is an accountant’. But truthfully I was a news junkie, growing up in a household of news junkies. I had grown up watching the news and seeing that whenever anything happened, everyone comes together and the news was always at the center of it all, it was the center of the community. Truthfully, I had always dreamed of becoming the person on the morning news.
“I talk to lots of students and interns, and I always give them the same advice: ‘Try everything, work hard, and figure out what you love; and no job is beneath you.’ For example, when I was interning at WCVB-TV, I was a waitress because it was the easiest way to work while interning. Unexpectedly, I learned that I loved dealing with the public and talking to people! I learned not to be embarrassed and not to be shy, so it helped me transition easily to become a reporter. It was the same thing—just talking to people! So see what you are willing to do or able to do, and see where a road will take you. Don’t point yourself too narrowly in one direction; see where it leads you. In the last 20 years I notice that an alarming number of people all want to be CEO—right away! The best thing I did was to go to a small community, make mistakes, work with people and learn a lot. The journey is what it’s all about—not the destination. In a small city you pay your dues, have more fun and have an interesting experience.
“After I graduated, I went to a station in Binghamton, New York, and had the time of my life. I was learning, I met my husband there. My career has been shaped and determined so much by these small steps. If I had had a job offer then in Boston, I would have missed the best years of my life—and meeting my husband. I worry that so many kids miss that best part of their life because they are looking only for the end results.”
What lies ahead?
|Kate Merrill with husband Mike Dunham and daughters Kayden, age 11, and Addison, age 15. (Courtesy photo)|
When I asked Kate where her career would take her, she replied “I don’t know. I don’t want to make plans, but rather just keep riding this train and see where it takes me. I love my station, my co-workers, and I’m not sure where it will lead me. I know I will work my whole life because I love it. I learned that from my mom who was a working mom when not all moms were. This career is something I love doing and it really challenges me.”
Fond memories of Carlisle
“Carlisle was the best place to grow up. I had a great childhood—so small and sheltered. I am really grateful for the Carlisle school system, which was so good with such good teachers—I never had a bad teacher. Every one pushed me and supported me and I never had a bad experience. It made me love school and learning. I had a great elementary and middle school experience, with the best teachers and friends, no bad memories. Kelly Colburn was my closest friend then, and she still is now. I have the best memories of the town and school. My family and I would gladly be living there now were it not for the extra 20 minutes it would add on the Boston commute. It is safe, sheltered, educated, pretty, and the people are so nice, I just love it!”
Meet Kate Merrill at the Carlisle Mosquito Annual Meeting, May 16
The Carlisle Mosquito is pleased to announce that Kate will be this year’s honored speaker at its annual meeting, held May 16, at 7:30 p.m., at The First Religious Society’s Union Hall. Please join us in welcoming her back to her beloved hometown. ∆